I know what you were thinking. You sat there after watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominate the Saints in New Orleans and said to yourself, “The Saints must not be any good. There’s no way the Bucs will do that again against the Eagles. There’s no way that Ryan Fitzpatrick can throw 4 touchdown passes against another team.” You said all of that and of course, you were wrong. Very wrong.
The World Champion Philadelphia Eagles and their fan base, many of whom despite moving to Florida and living here most of their lives still root for the Eagles, came strolling in to Raymond James Stadium on Sunday expecting a comfortable win and why wouldn’t they? These are the games that in years past the Bucs would have put up as much fight as a doormat and gotten run out of the stadium. However, these Bucs through two weeks look very different than the Bucs of just last year.
On the very first play of the game, Bucs QB Ryan Tom Brady Fitzpatrick went play-action and threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson, who seamlessly juked a Philadelphia defensive back on his way to the end zone. After that, both offenses sputtered for a while with the next eight possessions combining for six punts, a fumble, and interception. Then, Philadelphia tied the game on a 13 play, 78-yard drive capped off by a Zach Ertz touchdown catch and Bucs fans started getting that sinking feeling in their stomachs that the party might be over.
The Bucs got the ball back and wasted no time in flipping the momentum back to them. Ryan Fitzpatrick found TE O.J. Howard over the middle on a crossing pattern and Howard did the rest, streaking down the left side line for another 75-yard touchdown pass. Once back on defense, the Bucs forced a Philadelphia three and out and then followed it up with another touchdown drive, with Fitzpatrick hitting Chris Godwin for an 8-yard TD. The Bucs pushed the lead to 27-7 in the third quarter and then held as Philadelphia added two second half scores, but the Eagles simply couldn’t overcome the Bucs early offense, leading to a 27-21 final.
Of the many stories coming from this game, the play of Ryan Fitzpatrick will likely be the main topic of conversation. Fitzpatrick is doing everything he can to create a quarterback controversy in Tampa. A week after having the highest QB rating in the league and throwing for 400 yards and four touchdown passes, Fitzpatrick threw for 400 yards and 4 more TD’s this week, leaving him in first place in the NFL in both yards and QB rating.
Dirk Koetter has refused to take any bait in terms of answering whether Fitzpatrick will remain the starter once Jameis Winston’s suspension has concluded. However, the conventional wisdom is that if Fitzpatrick wins again this week against Pittsburgh, he likely will remain the starter until his play becomes a liability for the team.
This situation is somewhat unique in that well-known examples of the backup taking the job and never giving it back typically involve younger QB’s who take over for veterans (Dak Prescott taking over for Tony Romo in Dallas recently, or Tom Brady taking over for Drew Bledsoe in 2001). With Fitzpatrick being age 35 and Winston being age 24, and with the large amount of money invested in Winston, it’s rather inevitable that Jameis will retake the reins at some point in the future.
For the time being, why worry about a looming QB controversy when we can celebrate the Bucs being 2-0 for the first time since 2010. Up next, the winless Pittsburgh Steelers come to town, so the Bucs have a great chance at starting 3-0 and you have a great chance to taunt even more of your transplant friends who will be at the game in Steelers gear, and waving Terrible Towels.
Photo credit to Justin Pawloski, @commishonline on Twitter